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Ryan Lochte took gold in the men's 400-meter individual medley, his first London face-off with Michael Phelps. "I think I'm kind of in shock right now," Lochte said after the big win.
It wasn’t even close.
Ryan Lochte crushed rival teammate Michael Phelps in their first of two Olympic showdowns Saturday, dominating the 400m individual medley. Lochte’s gold was America’s first in the 2012 games.
For Phelps, who finished more than four seconds behind Lochte, it was a humbling conclusion to an event he once ruled. Phelps won gold in the 400m IM in 2004 and 2008 but barely qualified for Saturday's showdown. The loss marked the first time since 2000 that he failed to earn a medal in an Olympic final.
"It was just a crappy race," Phelps told The Associated Press. "I felt fine the first 200, then I don't know. They just swam a better race than me, a smarter race than me, and were better prepared than me. That's why they're on the medal stand."
Lochte finished in 4:05.18, more than three seconds ahead of Thaigo Pereira of Brazil, who took silver, and Kosuke Hagino of Japan, who won bronze.
Lochte smiled as he left the pool and prepared to receive his fourth career Olympic gold medal. "I think I'm kind of in shock right now," he told the AP. He said Phelps "gave it everything he had. That's all you can ask for."
On Sunday morning, in Lochte's second event of the games, he took second in the Men's 200m freestyle prelims and will advance to the semi-finals, which air at 2:37 p.m. ET Sunday.
As for Lochte and Phelps, they will go head-to-head once more, on Aug. 2 in the 200m individual medley.
Instead of focusing on Lochte, Phelps, with 16 gold medals and two bronzes in his career, is now racing with history. He needs to win a medal of any color in three more events to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. He plans to retire after the London games.
There were other exciting finishes Saturday at the Aquatics Centre, where defending Olympic champion Tae-hwan Park of South Korea appeared to win his morning heat in the 400 freestyle, but was disqualified for a false start.
He protested, and later in the day was reinstated after officials reviewed a video of the race. Park went on to win the silver medal in the finals, losing to Yang Sun of China, who set an Olympic record with a 3:40.14 finish.
Sun's teammate, Ye Shiwen, set a world record in the women's 400-meter individual medley, finishing in 4:28.43, nearly three seconds ahead of American teenager Elizabeth Beisel.
Veteran U.S. Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin tied Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated U.S. female Olympian. She won her 12th career medal — a bronze — in the 400-free relay Saturday without getting wet.
The 29-year-old swam in the morning preliminaries, but Team USA's coach decided not to use her in the finals when the Americans took bronze. Instead Coughlin cheered on her younger teammates Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy and Olympic rookies Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt.
"I really have no idea what to think of it so far," Coughlin told The Associated Press. "I'll have to let that one sit and I'll have to take it all in. I'm very proud of it, but I've never been on a morning relay before."
Coughlin earned six medals at the Beijing Games, the most by an American woman at single Olympics. She did not qualify for an individual event in London.
American Dana Vollmer won the semifinals in the women's 100m butterfly and remains the favorite heading into Sunday's finals.
Also on Saturday: